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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

Since the medimnus weighed 160 Roman


is introduced by Homer [8] as

a term of contempt. "Such contempt might perhaps be due to the naked youths who appeared on foot in the fields of Troy, and lurking behind a tombstone, or the shield of a friend, drew the bow-string to their breast, [9] and dismissed a feeble and lifeless arrow. But our archers (pursues the historian) are mounted on horses, which they manage with admirable skill; their head and shoulders are protected by a casque or buckler; they wear greaves of iron on their legs, and their bodies are guarded by a coat of mail. On their right side hangs a quiver, a sword on their left, and their hand is accustomed to wield a lance or javelin in closer combat. Their bows are strong and weighty; they shoot in every possible direction, advancing, retreating, to the front, to the rear, or to either flank; and as they are taught to draw the bow-string not to the breast, but to the right ear, firm indeed must be the armor that can resist the rapid violence of their shaft." Five hundred transports, navigated by twenty thousand mariners of Egypt, Cilicia, and Ionia, were collected in the harbor of Constantinople. The smallest of these vessels may be computed at thirty, the largest at five hundred, tons; and the fair average will supply an allowance, liberal, but not profuse, of about one hundred thousand tons, [10] for the reception of thirty-five thousand soldiers and sailors, of five thousand horses, of arms, engines, and military stores, and of a sufficient stock of water and provisions for a voyage,
perhaps, of three months. The proud galleys, which in former ages swept the Mediterranean with so many hundred oars, had long since disappeared; and the fleet of Justinian was escorted only by ninety-two light brigantines, covered from the missile weapons of the enemy, and rowed by two thousand of the brave and robust youth of Constantinople. Twenty-two generals are named, most of whom were afterwards distinguished in the wars of Africa and Italy: but the supreme command, both by land and sea, was delegated to Belisarius alone, with a boundless power of acting according to his discretion, as if the emperor himself were present. The separation of the naval and military professions is at once the effect and the cause of the modern improvements in the science of navigation and maritime war. [Footnote 8: See the preface of Procopius. The enemies of archery might quote the reproaches of Diomede (Iliad. Delta. 385, &c.) and the permittere vulnera ventis of Lucan, (viii. 384:) yet the Romans could not despise the arrows of the Parthians; and in the siege of Troy, Pandarus, Paris, and Teucer, pierced those haughty warriors who insulted them as women or children.]

[Footnote 9: (Iliad. Delta. 123.) How concise--how just--how beautiful is the whole picture! I see the attitudes of the archer--I hear the twanging of the bow.]

[Footnote 10: The text appears to allow for the largest vessels 50,000 medimni, or 3000 tons, (since the medimnus weighed 160 Roman, or 120 avoirdupois, pounds.) I have given a more rational interpretation, by supposing that the Attic style of Procopius conceals the legal and popular modius, a sixth part of the medimnus, (Hooper's Ancient Measures, p. 152, &c.) A contrary and indeed a stranger mistake has crept into an oration of Dinarchus, (contra Demosthenem, in Reiske Orator. Graec tom iv. P. ii. p. 34.) By reducing the number of ships from 500 to 50, and translating by mines, or pounds, Cousin has generously allowed 500 tons for the whole of the Imperial fleet! Did he never think?]


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